Ayurveda Lecture

Ayurveda:

Life (Ayu) is the combination of the body, senses, mind and reincarnating soul.  Ayurveda is the most sacred science of life, beneficial to humans both in this world and the world beyond.  –Chakra Samhita, Sutrasthana, I.42-34

Terms:

  • AYURVEDA: Commonly known as the science of life, the yogic science of healing (Ayus= life and veda=knowledge).   This yogic science of healing is rooted in ancient Indian tradition and “is thought to be the oldest healing system on the planet” according to Vasant Lad.  It is an art of daily living and offers an understanding of each person’s unique body and mind constitutions.  This is an important science because the focus is ultimately about optimum health, wellbeing, and balance in all areas of ones life (body/mind/spirit). 
  • AHISMA: The first yama teaches of non-violence and non-judgment at the level of speech, thought and action.
  • DOSHA: Refers to vata, pitta and kapha—the three functional /principle constitutions of the body; the ratio of the three determines an individual’s unique constitution.  When functioning normally and present in normal quantities, the doshas maintain all healthy bodily processes.  When out of balance, they create disease.
  • FIVE ELEMENTS: Refers to: ether or space (created from subtle vibrations, Om); air (element of movement), fire (the source in the solar system is the sun and in the human body, metabolism); water (vital for functioning of all bodily systems); earth (holds all living and non-living substances to its solid surface).

Five Elements and the Doshas:
The science of Ayurveda has a classification for all living things based on the constitution or qualities and states of being – as well as forces of nature.  All three doshas are present to some varying degree in all individuals.  The concept of balance in Ayurveda is the thought process that when the individual is balanced with their unique and natural ratio of doshas, optimum health can be achieved. 

Space + Air = VATA… Examples in nature: Wind

Fire + Water = PITTA… Examples in nature: Photosynthesis

Water + Earth = KAPHA… Examples in nature: Mud

DISCOVERING THE DOSHAS: VATA, PITTA, AND KAPHA

1. Vata Dosha: Cold, Dry, Light.  

Vata is the lightest of all the elements and is the main driver or mover of the body. Vata provides creativity and movement of the physical and mental bodies and governs the nervous system.  Anything with movement or motion in the body is Vata—respiration and ingestion of food and water.  

Because Vata is the “king” of the doshas, balancing is necessary for everyone.

Vata comes from “vah”– a vehicle—that which carries or moves.

Elements: Air and ether

Season: Mid-October to Mid-March

Sensory: Hearing and touch

Physical Small frame, light and thin

Characteristics: Course, dry kinky or curly hair

Dry, rough, darker skin

Small eyes, whites of eyes are blue or brownish

Very large or small teeth, crooked or shaded

Low strength and endurance

Performs activity quickly, quick walking pace.

Mental Attributes: Quick-minded, restless

Quick to learn, quick to forget

Moods change quickly, tendency toward worry, easily excited and stressed, anxious.

Sleep: Light sleep, dreams are fearful, flying, jumping and running

Other Tendencies: Irregular hunger/digestion, tends toward constipation

Aversion to cold weather

Prefers warm food/drinks and eats quickly

Spends money, doesn’t save

Variable, irregular sex drive

Physical Sites: Colon(the main organ for absorption of nutrients from digestion); lower abdomen/pelvic girdle, thighs, ears, bones, skin

Other Bodily Functions: Circulation, respiration, heart functioning/rhythm, nerve impulses, physical movements, prana

Balanced State: Cheerful, enthusiastic, fast moving, creative, joyful

Out of Balance: Fearful, anxious, over active mind, constipation, lower backaches, insomnia

Journal: What would you suggest for your students who are out of balance and their dominant dosha is Vata? (Hint: think opposite of cold/dry)

Tip For Balancing Vata Body and Mind (think Pitta / Kapha): Establish and practice a routine that’s calming and regular (especially for sleep and exercise). Stay warm and eat well-cooked food.  Drink warm liquid (avoid ice cold drinks).  Incorporate calming music, scents, and activities that help to calm the nervous system.  For grounding, eat heavier/oily foods.  Incorporate oil massage as well as seated and slow walking meditations. 

Seat of Vata:

-Seat is in the large intestine and pelvic cavity

-Emphasize postures that put pressure on this area to help alleviate gas, bloating, digestive issues

Other Considerations: 

-Tends toward dryness cracking joints; poor circulation

-Goal of asana is to release stiffness and tension (especially in back and joints)

-Emphasize strength, stability and calm in standing postures such as Tree.

-Be cautious of postures where weight is placed on the neck; Practice backbends with caution 

-Keep spine flexible

-Take time to warm up in postures to loosen joints and improve circulation gradually and steadily

Postures to Emphasize:

-Sun Salutation practiced slowly and consciously

-Seated postures, hip openers

-Knee to Chest pose

-Spinal Twist

-Locust

-Cobra pose

-Crane pose

-Standing forward bends with knees bent (especially Head to Knee pose and full forward bend)

-Head stand (holding briefly, no more than 3 minutes)

-Shoulder stand (attention to supporting shoulders, avoid pressure on neck.)

-Corpse pose

-Rabbit

-Half Tortoise

-Wind Removing pose

-In general, all restorative poses (especially Corpse)

2. Pitta Dosha: Hot, Moist (Oily), Light

Wherever there is transformation, there is Pitta. Pitta provides metabolism, thermo genesis and body temperature, vision, and  comprehension of information.  Pitta embodies qualities of inspired leadership and are blessed with wisdom. Pitta holds the highest potential of all living beings. 

Pitta is derived from “tapa” meaning to heat, to become hot.  For Pitta, this is also related to austerity and concentration.

Elements: Fire and water

Season: Mid-June to Mid-October

Sensory: Sight and taste

Physical Characteristics: Medium frame and weight

Thin, lustrous hair with fine curls

Soft, medium oily, pink to red skin

Penetrating eyes, white of eyes are yellow or reddish

Small to medium yellowish teeth

Average walking pace

Mental Attributes: Sharp intellect, aggressive, good general memory

Slow changing moods, angers easily, quick temper

Favors orderly environment

Competitive

Sleep: Sound medium length sleep, dreams: fiery, violent, angry

Other tendencies: Sharp hunger, can’t miss a meal, good digestion and 

elimination

Prefers cold food/drink and eats at easy pace

Saves money but spends big

Moderate sex drive

Physical Sites: Small intestine; stomach, blood, liver, gallbladder, sweat, eyes/vision, intelligence/comprehension

Other Bodily Functions: Bodily metabolism, digestion/absorption/assimilation of food, maintenance of body heat/temperature

Balanced State: Fire, passionate, articulate, inspiring, inspired, courage, ambition, transformation, visual perception

Out of Balance: Anger, irritability, impatience, heartburn, hypoglycemia, skin inflammations 

Journal: What would you suggest for your students who are out of balance and their dominant dosha is Pitta? (Hint: think opposite of hot/oily).

Tip For Balancing Pitta Body and Mind (think Vata + Kapha):
Emphasize moderation and focus on staying cool. Avoid overworking and stressful deadlines, find more time to relax.  Cultivate a sense of balance and moderation for everything.  Have a consistent schedule for meals, eat lots of protein.  Drink cool liquids and use cooling spices like mint, coriander, and cardamom.  Spend time in nature, go outside everyday for at least a few minutes and take in the healing beauty of your surroundings.  Learn to diffuse your intensity, practice softness.  Utilize seated meditation or take a walk in nature when it’s cool outside.  


Seat of Pitta:

-Seat is the small intestine and liver

-Emphasize postures that expand this area to help release excess heat from these organs

-Emphasize other postures that will help release excess heat from the body

-Focus on releasing tension from the mid-abdomen and small intestine (Bow, Cobra, Boat, Fish)

-Continue to stimulate “agni” (digestive fire) without becoming overheated

Other Considerations:

-Twists and backbends to release excess heat

-Forward bends and quiet restorative poses help cool and soothe

-Favor shoulder stands over head stands to keep a cooling effect

-Favor hip opening postures (Tree, Triangle, Half Moon)

-Backbends in moderation followed by cooling postures

Postures to Emphasize:

-Cooling postures

-Sun Salutations practiced with moderate intensity

-Non-heated yoga classes

-Boat pose

-Fish pose

-Balancing poses

-Hip openers

-Shoulder Stand

-Legs open forward bending (Prasarita)

-Tree

-Triangle

-Half Moon

-Deaf Man’s pose

-Camel pose

-Tortoise

-Bow pose

-Spinal Twist

-Bridge (favor over wheel)

-Corpse pose

3. Kapha Dosha: Cold, Moist (Oily), Heavy

Kapha is the heaviest of the three doshas. It provides the substantial structures to the body, giving shape and form to the body’s cells, tissues, organs and systems.  Because of Kapha’s “sticky” nature, it helps with the lubrication that the body needs. Kapha provides strength and grounding, fertility and virility, mass and structure.

Kapha, is a combination of water and Earth: “ka” meaning water and “pha” flourishing. 

Elements: Water and Earth

Season: Mid-March to Mid-June

Sensory: Taste and smell

Physical Large frame, heavy, easy to gain weight

Characteristics: Thick, straight/wavy oily hair

Large eyes, whites of eyes are glossy and white

Medium to large, white strong teeth

Slow and steady walking pace

Excellent strength and endurance

Mental Attributes: Calm, steady disposition

Long term memory weak

Steady non-changing moods, slow to get irritated

Understanding, easy going

Sleep: Sound, heavy and long sleep, dreams of water, clouds and 

romance and relationships

Other Tendencies: Can easily miss a meal 

Digestion can be a slow

Elimination is heavy, slow, thick and regular

Aversion to damp/humid and cold weather

Prefers dry food and eats slowly

Saves money regularly and accumulates wealth

Strong sex drive

Physical Sites:          Lungs, sinuses, throat, nose, mouth, stomach, pancreas, lymph nodes, synovial fluid, plasma, tongue

Other Bodily Lubrication, fluids/bronchial secretions, gaseous exchange in 

Functions: lungs, nourishment, support/stability, repair and regeneration

Balanced State: Grounded, centered, loving, good memory, thoughtful

Out of Balance:  Mental inertia, depression, over attachment, over sleeping, congestion in chest, intolerance of cold and damp/humidity.

Journal: What would you suggest for your students who are out of balance and their dosha is Kapha? (Hint: Think opposite of cold/oily).

Tips For Balancing Kapha Body and Mind (think Pitta):
Seek out new and stimulating and energizing activities (jog/run).  Do invigorating exercise; during long periods of sitting do short bursts of movement to stimulate blood flow.  Avoid oversleeping, keep a consistent schedule including what time you wake up and when you go to bed.  Play energizing music and use energizing scents.  Drink warm liquids and eat light food.  Try a eating more raw food or lightly steamed.  Have exercise as a part of your daily routine.

Seat of Kapha:

-Seat in chest and head (domain of the sinuses, lungs and stomach where mucous and congestion tend to accumulate when imbalanced)

-Emphasize and upward lift away from the Earth; bring lightness and levity to movements

-Focus on movements that draw up the pelvic floor and those that extend arms overhead and lengthen core

-Practice patience with flexibility rather than forcing postures

Other Considerations:

-Invigorate the respiratory system and stimulate digestive capacity.

-Contracting and opening the core help stimulates metabolic fire and increase circulation

-Backbends assist in opening the chest and increasing circulation to the brain

-Practice Sun Salutations in rapid succession

-Vary routine each day (type of yoga/activity and time of day)

-Evolve practice slowly and incrementally 

Postures to Emphasize:

-Sun Salutations practiced at a moderate pace
-Balancing poses

-Backbends 

-Awkward pose

-Cow-Face pose

-Warrior poses (I, II, III)

-Revolved triangle

-Revolved side angle

-Upward facing bow

-All arm balances and inversions practiced carefully

-Lord of the Fish
______________________________________________________________________

Body Balancing Tips for All Doshas:

– Incorporate a diet of seasonal food choices and incorporate the tastes that balance your dosha.

  • Incorporate daily physical activity (exercise & yoga) – move your body in ways that feel good for you.
  • Get proper heating/cooling and moisturizing/drying rituals into your daily routines to create balancing for digestion, nails, hair, and skin.

Mind Balancing Tips for All Doshas:

– Develop and stick to a seasonal routine.

  • Practice a daily dosha balancing ritual.
  • Meditate and focus on cultivating balance.

Six Tastes & The Doshas:

Vata:
To Increase Vata: Emphasize pungent, bitter, astringent
To Decrease Vata: Emphasize sweet, sour, salty

Pitta:
To Increase Pitta: Emphasize pungent, sour, salty
To Decrease Pitta: Emphasize sweet, bitter, astringent

Kapha:
To Increase Kapha: Emphasize sweet, sour, salty
To Decrease Kapha: Emphasize pungent, bitter, astringent

Sweet: Grains, pasta, breads, nuts, dairy, oils, sweet fruits, starchy vegetables, fish, poultry, meat, sugar. Sourced from Carbohydrates, proteins, fats.

Sour: Citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, tart fruits, vinegar, chutneys, salad dressings, pickles, condiments. Sourced from Organic acids.

Salty: Table salt, fish, seaweed, soy sauce, processed foods. Sourced from Mineral salts.

Pungent: Pepper, cayenne, ginger, garlic, onions, leeks, chilies, radish, horseradish, salsa, basil, thyme. Sourced from Essential oils.

Bitter: Green and yellow vegetables, green leafy vegetables. Alkaloids and glycosides.

Astringent: Beans, legumes, peas, tea, cranberries, pomegranate, apples, green leafy vegetables. Sourced from Tannins.

In Ayurveda, balance in diet regarding food and liquid intake is paramount.  Most individuals do not get enough hydration and are deficient in intake of water and electrolytes/minerals.  To support your active lifestyle, especially if you sweat moderately throughout the week, incorporate low sugar options for hydration such as coconut water and banana smoothies, electrolyte drops to add to water, Sole water (salt+water mixture taken daily first thing in the morning), etc.  Hydration is incredibly important for maintaining vitality and well being. 

Svadhyaya:

In your journal write down each dosha and leave space underneath.  Choose TWO of the listed words below relating to each dosha and write them next to the dosha
(ie: Pitta – Soothing, Settled).  

Write a cue for a yoga posture (use breath, posture name, cues) for each of the words chosen (6 postures/cues total).
(ie: exhale forward fold soften your knees and get settled into this stretch)  <— do not use this example for your homework

Vata: Grounded, connected, calm, Earth

Pitta: Cool, soft, settled, soothe

Kapha: Energize, invigorate, enliven, inspire

Sources Consulted

Chopra, Deepak.  Perfect Health

Coffey, Lisa Marie.  What’s Your Dosha Baby? 

Douillard, John.  The Three Season Diet

Farhi, Donna.  The Yoga Book

Frawley, David.  Ayurveda and the Mind

Frawley, David.  Yoga and Ayurveda

Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda, Volume One: Fundamental Principles 

Simon, David.  Vital Energy

Simon, David.  The Wisdom of Healing

Asana – Dosha Connection:
(Sources: Yoga & Ayurveda by David Frawley and The Yoga Book by Donna Farhi)
From asana arises steadiness of body and mind, freedom from disease and lightness of the limbs.  Hatha Yoga, Pradipika I.17